What Not to Buy in December

December may be one of the best shopping months. No matter where you look, it is easy to find either a holiday or year-end deal or discount for almost anything you can imagine.

However, despite all of the December sales extravaganzas, not everything is a great deal. Here are few purchases Consumer Reports and NerdWallet say are worth postponing until the new year.

Jewelry: If you want to really get the best deal wait until late January to buy any diamonds or jewelry. That sweet spot between the end of the holidays and just before Valentine’s Day is generally when jewelers and department stores launch their deepest sales discounts.

Fitness equipment: The very best deals are in the warmer months – however, there are usually sales available in early January if your fitness goals simply can’t wait.

Bedding: Nothing beats 50-75% off deals during January white sales. If you can, hold off until then to buy blankets, sheet sets, and towels. Imagine how much better you’ll sleep knowing you got them at such a discount!

Winter clothing: The end of January through early February is the best time of year to get your winter gear for less.

Televisions: Black Friday deals are hard to beat. If you missed them, try shopping for your next high-end television in late January/early February (for upcoming SuperBowl deals).

Article Source: Myriam DiGiovanni for Financialfeed.com

 

Important Holiday Shopping Tips Everyone Should Know

The gift-giving season is in full swing. Here are some tips to help you shop wisely and protect your personal and financial information at the same time.

  • Make a list and a budget. Remember incidentals, like cards and wrapping paper. Your local dollar store is a great place for these types of items too!
  • Check out websites that compare prices for things sold online, and at stores in your area. It can help you get the best deal.
  • Make sure the scanned price is right. Overcharges cost you money and time, especially if you don’t notice them right away.
  • Look for rebates. Some can be redeemed at checkout, but most require you to send documentation to the manufacturer to get your rebate. Either way, you’ll be getting money back on your purchases.
  • Read reviews and recommendations to see how the product performs — or people’s experience with an online seller. But remember to consider the source.
  • Be aware that shopping apps can collect a lot of personal information. Look for apps that tell you what they do with your data, and how they keep it secure.
  • Check the terms of the deal when buying online — including delivery dates and refund policies. Will it arrive in time? And, if it’s not what you thought, can you send it back?
  • Save receipts. When you’re shopping online – keep copies of your order number, the refund and return policies, shipping costs and warranties.
  • Giving bling? Take some time to learn the terms used in the jewelry industry so you can get the best quality and value.
  • Shipping to loved ones overseas? Check the US Postal Service’s calendar for holiday shipping deadlines.
  • Have packages delivered to a secure location. If you won’t be home, have them delivered to work, or see if a neighbor can be on the lookout for deliveries. Consider requiring a signature for delivery — or look for options to pick up your shipment at a local store or mailing center.

Happy Holiday Shopping!

Article Source: Colleen Tressler for the FTC

Winter is Coming: Time to Ready Your Home and Wallet

We are in the midst of the holiday season and that means the temperatures are steadily dropping. As we reach year’s end, it’s time to take a hard look at how you can prepare your home and your wallet for the winter months ahead. Here are four tips for winterizing your home and saving some extra cash.

Keep it low.

Instead of turning up the heat every time you feel a chill, grab a blanket or put the fireplace on and save some cash. Also, take a good look at your heating system and find out whether there’s a programming option. This will allow you to set times when you want the heat to click on (in the morning when you’re getting out of bed, for example) and times when it should remain low (while you’re at work and no one is home).

Let sunshine in.

Many of us like the privacy our drapes and curtains provide us. But, when it’s cold out, open up your blinds and let the sun in. You’ll be surprised how much the natural sunlight will help heat up certain areas of your home.

Freshen up your filters.

It can be very easy to forget about those air filters, but keeping them clean is key to good quality air in your home. Filthy filters not only limit the airflow, but they also up the energy demand (which means more expensive bills). So, make a note in your calendar to check on them monthly to ensure they’re in good shape.

Turn the fan around.

Many people associate ceiling fans with cool air when actually, with just a minor adjustment they can help warm your home as well. Most ceiling fans come with a small switch that allows you to change its direction. A clockwise rotation will push warm air back down into your living space, which can significantly cut your heating costs too.

Article Source: Wendy Moody for CUInsight.com   

5 Easy Ways to Save for the Holidays in Just 5 Weeks

Facts are facts. When it comes to holiday planning, lists are long and time is short. If you’re one of those mythical people who has already finished your holiday shopping, this article may not pertain to you. But, you can still share it with those in your life who always seem to wait as late as possible to start thinking about holiday gifts. Now, if you’re part of the 53% of people who wait until the last minute to tackle your holiday shopping, you’ll want to keep reading.

Ever Ascending Holiday Spending

Every year, Americans spend more on winter holidays than any other occasion in the calendar. Staying in line with this upward trend, shoppers are expected to spend more during the 2018 holiday season than ever before. According to the National Retail Federation: “Consumers say they will spend an average $1,007.24 during the holiday season this year, up 4.1 percent from the $967.13 last year.” And that figure doesn’t even include travel expenses!

Regardless of whether your seasonal spending will top the national average or you skate by just under the line, we want to help you save money. While there may not be enough time to implement a long-term plan as of now, here are five practical tips to help you stretch your holiday dollars a little further this year:

  • Know your limits. Set your limits. At this point in the game, time is of the essence—and so is your money. Rather than trying to overwhelm people with the quantity of your gifts, focus on the quality. It’s always better to give someone one gift they’ll love than to flood them with a variety of forgettable trinkets. Save your time (and hopefully your cash), with more meaningful gifts.
  • Go with gift cards. Don’t stress an opinionated recipient. Let them do the heavy lifting, you just give them the gift of shopping guidance. Plus, nothing says “treat yourself” like a gift card. Why not get creative and make those very same gift cards work for you? Many retailers offer gift cards at a discount during the holidays. If a store is selling gift cards at a 10% discount, buy a $100 gift card for $90 and use it to pay for your gift purchases. Hidden savings will help you through.
  • Abandon your cart. If you’re planning to do your shopping online this year, slowing down can save you money. Instead of finding the item you want, adding it to your shopping cart, and checking out immediately, try a new approach. The first two steps are the same. But then, instead of completing the purchase, leave the item in your cart and exit the site. When something sits in your cart for an extended period of time, many online retailers will send you a reminder email offering a discount if you’ll come back and complete the transaction.
  • The search for savings is on. Thanks to the Internet, you no longer have to cross your fingers and wonder if the store you’re shopping from will offer a coupon or promo code. Websites like RetailmenotGroupon, and Ebates do the work for you. If you’re a frequent Amazon shopper, the Honey app will automatically search the web for coupons or promotions on the items you’ve added to your cart. The holiday season is the perfect time to let modern technology work for you!
  • Patience pays. Failing to plan ahead is rarely a good strategy. But in the case of holiday travels, it just might work in your favor. If you’re hitting the road this holiday season, websites like HotelTonight  and  LastMinuteTravel have created their entire business around helping travelers score last-minute deals on hotel rooms. Don’t just book the first available hotel room you see in the search results though. Shop around. Outstanding savings are out there — you just have to find them.

While the tips we’ve offered can help you get through this holiday season with your spirit intact, there’s an even better way to prepare for next year.

At First Financial, our Holiday Savings Club makes it simple to set aside a little money each month. Start a new tradition of stress-free shopping. No need to put yourself into debt over holiday spending – simply save ahead and come out on top (and not in debt)!*

  • Open at any time
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • Dividends are posted annually on balances of $100 or more
  • Accounts automatically renew each year
  • Deposits can be made in person, via mail, payroll deductions, or direct deposit
  • Holiday Club funds are deposited into a First Financial Checking or Base Savings Account

Contact us today to learn more about our Holiday Club

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the program. Click here to view full Rewards First program details, and here to view the Tier Level Comparison Chart. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

4 Ways to Save on Your Thanksgiving Feast

The countdown to Thanksgiving has begun. We all look forward to preparing a great meal for friends and family, but the costs (in both time and money) – can sometimes be hard to digest.

If you are hosting this year’s feast, here are few ways to keep the financial and emotional stress to a minimum.

Make a plan: Decide on your menu early. List all the ingredients you need and start looking for deals. When it comes to food shopping, the earlier the better. Many stores have already started their holiday season specials, so keep an eye out for coupons and discounts. Break up the Turkey Day shopping list and pick up a few items during your regular supermarket runs. Speaking of turkey, it’s time to get your pre-orders in. Spare yourself the stress of hunting down a turkey at the last minute by reserving a frozen turkey now. If you’re feeding a crowd, don’t limit yourself to just your local grocery store. Membership warehouses like Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJ’s are great places to find deals on bulk wine, beer and other drinks, as well as produce, frozen items, and desserts.

Buy the right size turkey: According to the Natural Resource Defense Council, about 204 million pounds of turkey, worth a total of $293 million, is tossed in the trash each year. The general rule of thumb to figure out how much turkey you need is 1 to 1 ½ pounds of turkey per person. Don’t worry, you’ll still have leftovers.

Sharing is caring: Who says you have to do all the cooking? Maybe this is the year you go potluck. As the host, you can provide the main meat dishes like turkey, ham, lasagna, or whatever your family traditions include. Then, ask your guests to each bring a side dish, dessert, or a bottle of their favorite beverage to complete the spread. But be sure to confirm what each person is bringing, or you may end up with five green bean casseroles.

Outsource the meal: Do you want to host Thanksgiving dinner but you’re not up to cooking this year? Check out mail-order meal kits. Some consider it the best of both worlds. It’s still a home cooked meal, but the menu and ingredients are all delivered right to your door. If you prefer to have someone else do all of the cooking, start scoping out local restaurants and grocery stores for Thanksgiving Day catering deals. You will likely spend more money than going the DIY route, but the savings in time and stress may be worth it. The most important thing this time of year, is to enjoy the holiday season and spend time with loved ones.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Article Source: Myriam DiGiovanni for Financialfeed.com

How to Actually Stick to Your Holiday Budget

It’s almost that time of the year again, and the holiday season is right around the corner. While the last few months of the year are usually all about laughter and celebration, it is also one of the most expensive times of the year as well. With traveling expenses and gifts, your budget can quickly get out of hand.

Before you get stressed out about holiday budgeting, start a plan. The earlier you begin thinking about holiday spending, the more time you’ll have to actually enjoy the season. Here are five tips to help you stick to your holiday budget:

Start Early

The early bird gets the worm! While you might think it’s too early to start planning for the holidays, think again. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself scrambling for last minute gifts. Start your planning now before you stress yourself out. Begin making your list of people you need to get gifts for and jot down ideas of what you might want to get them. Once you have your list ready, you can start hunting for steals and deals well in advance. You might even get your shopping done early!

Tackle Black Friday Deals

You either love Black Friday or you hate it. If you plan to Black Friday shop this year, then prepare yourself for the big day. Many retailers will release a list of their sales the week prior so you can start making your list ahead of time. Be sure to research when stores open as you might want to get there early in case inventory sells out. If you don’t get exactly what you want on Black Friday, there’s always Cyber Monday – when you can find plenty of deals online without the crowds.

DIY Your Gifts

Store-bought gifts aren’t always the best. Homemade items carry a lot of significant value and you can personalize them and make them exactly how you want. Consider DIY-ing your gifts if you have the talent. Not only will your friends and family appreciate the thought and effort you put into their gifts, but you’ll also save a significant amount of money.

Set Limits

It would be amazing if we could buy all our loved ones the perfect gift, but most of us can’t afford to do that. While you’re making your list and shopping, be sure to be realistic with what you can afford. Decide what your limits are for each person and stick to it. Even if you find the “perfect” gift for someone on your list, it’s not going to work if it will break your budget. It’s the thought that really counts, so don’t worry about buying the most expensive gift.

Spend on Experiences

Most of the time it’s better to gift an experience if you can’t find the perfect gift for someone. Think about what they really enjoy doing. For instance, tickets to a local play or a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant can be great ideas. Plus, you might also be able to tag along – so not only do you get to enjoy the gift, but you also get to spend time with the recipient too.

The holidays are quickly approaching. While shopping and sticking to your budget is important, also remember to take a few moments to enjoy time with family and loved ones this season.

Article Source: Connie Mei for Moneyning.com